I've been exploring food and cider pairing with Thatchers Cider for the past few months, and now I bring you ideas for a cider pairing dinner party menu!
Over the past few months I've been working with Thatchers Cider to explore pairing cider and food. For this post I'm sharing options for food you could choose to serve at a cider pairing dinner party! Forget about wine, parties are all about cider now. Just gather some friends together, relax, eat good food and see how the dishes work with a variety of different ciders.
Thatchers has long been my favourite tipple, and it's great to know that they use traditional techniques and the expertise they’ve honed since 1904 to craft the finest range of vegan and gluten-free Somerset ciders.
Four generations of cider-making later, they’ve created some exceptional ciders on their 400 acres of apple orchards.
Wine has long been the drink of choice at a dinner party, but for a modern twist one of the biggest drinks trends right now is cider and food pairing.
The fruity notes of cider compliment a range of foods from salty savoury cheeses and creamy curries, to earthy mushroom dishes and bright fruity salads.
Ciders are also often locally-made, so it's nice to try ciders alongside their regional dishes - for example, Thatchers Somerset cider is great alongside cheese from nearby Cheddar.
Which ciders to choose?
I would definitely suggest getting a range of different ciders for your cider pairing dinner party .
Everyone's palates are different so it's interesting to see how everyone likes different courses with different ciders - from an everyday medium/dry and sparkling (like Thatchers Gold) to a strong aged cider (like Thatchers Vintage).
There are loads of options here to choose from, so you could either throw a 3-course cider pairing dinner party, or my choice would be to make smaller portions of lots of dishes and serve them mezze/tapas-style with sharing plates.
Be sure to have a wide selection of ciders as they'll all taste a bit different with each dish.
A fun, relaxed atmosphere is perfect for a food and cider pairing dinner party.
So get some music on, open loads of cider and put out sharing plates of a variety of foods. You can all compare your favourite combinations.
I would recommend sharing bottles of cider with small glasses, so everyone has time to try the range of ciders with each dish and really get a sense of how the different nuances of the drinks work with the flavours of the food.
There are many factors to look at when pairing food and cider, such as sweetness, levels of fizz, clarity and acidity, but this isn't something to get too concerned with.
Everyone has different palates and will taste things differently. This is a cider party, so just relax, get tasting and have fun!
Menu ideas for a food and cider pairing dinner party
Broadly, foods that pair well with apples should work with cider. Full-bodied ciders work well with rich dishes such as stews, curries, meat, pies and dishes with wintery spices such as sage and cinnamon. Lighter, delicately fruity, sweet ciders will complement summery dishes like salads, quiches, tarts and fruits.
Here are just a few foods that pair with apples:
Fruit: blackberries, blueberries, mango, orange, pear, pineapple
Vegetables: rhubarb, beetroot, squash, celery, red cabbage
Meat and fish: gammon, sausages, black pudding, chicken, liver, oysters, mussels, game
Herbs and spices: star anise, cinnamon, clove, vanilla, nutmeg, rose, ginger, rosemary, thyme
Nuts: almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts
Cheese: cheddar, camembert, goats cheese, gorgonzola, stilton.
Below are some suggestions of dishes you can mix and match for a buffet-style food and cider pairing dinner party!
Cider works well to cut through the richness of creamy curries, and the fizz is great alongside spicy dishes. A medium-dry cider, like Thatchers Gold, works very well with spicy dishes from curry to Mexican foods.
Salads and Lighter Bites
Light fruit ciders (like Thatchers Haze) go very well with summery dishes, from fruity mango salads and vibrant lime dips to charred pineapple and quiches. Still, also try these dishes alongside a deeper vintage cider as often the differences in strong cider and lighter dishes can make a lovely balance.
Warm Six Spice Party Nuts
Cauliflower Spinach Pakoras
Korean Sweet Potatoes with Mango and Avocado-Lime Dip
Coconut-Encrusted Pineapple and Fish Kebabs
Rose Petal and Roasted Tomato Pesto
Beetroot, Walnut, Wild Garlic and Goat's Cheese Muffins
Sweet Potato Frittata
Vegan Cauliflower Crispy Duck
Like wine, cider goes well with cheese, so you could simply put out a small cheese board as a starter, mini baked camemberts with bread or even a retro cheese fondue. Sparkling ciders can cut through the fat content and creaminess of cheese and help to cleanse the palate between bites. A fine cider (such as Thatchers Katy) can balance well with a strong goat's cheese or a nice camembert.
Cheddar Cheese Shards
Smoked Cheese Gnocchi
Apple Cheese Muffins with Thyme
Chard, Squash and Goat's Curd with Garlic Almond Migas
Four Cheese Cauliflower Cheese
Cauliflower Cheese Soup
Sweetcorn Jalapeño Scones with Goats Cheese
The earthy flavours of mushrooms, lentils and herbs pair beautifully with many ciders. The contrast of the sparkling fruity medium/dry cider, like Thatchers Gold, balances well with the dark tastes of a mushroom and onion pizza or lentil pie.
Mushrooms on Toast with Garlic and Thyme
Mushroom and Onion Skillet Pizza
Easy Eggplant Meatballs (aubergine, vegan)
Cheesy Spinach, Mushroom & Potato Crust Pie.
Vegan Leek Mushroom and Spinach Tart
Braised red cabbage
Portobello Mushroom Steaks (vegan)
Veggie Lentil Shepherds Pie Jacket Potatoes
Ethiopian Berbere Spiced Lentil Stew
Meat, Poultry and Fish Dishes
Pork has long been paired with apples and applesauce, so would make a good meaty dish to serve with cider, whether a slow roasted pulled pork belly. You could also try gammon, sausages, bacon, black pudding, chicken, game and even liver. For seafood, pair cider with oysters and mussels. An aged cider, like Thatchers Vintage, would be excellent with darker meats, while a fine cider, such as Thatchers Katy, pairs well with seafood.
Apple-based dishes will, of course, work well with cider. From roast pork with cider gravy to a beetroot and apple salad, find different ways to work apples into some of the dishes and see how they taste with different intensities of the fruit in the ciders.
Apple Cheese Muffins with Thyme
Apple and California Walnut Salad with Walnut Pesto
Sweet Apple and Cider Mince Pies with Cheddar Pastry
Apple Beetroot Salad with Tahini Dressing
Spiced Apple and Rosehip Jelly
A slightly tart cider will pair nicely with these desserts that all contain flavours that pair well with apples. If you haven't had a cheese board for a starter, then it would be great for afters. Get a wide variety of quality cheeses and sample the with different types of cider. Here are some other desserts to try:
Parsnip, Maple and Nutmeg Cake with Sweet Potato Ginger Icing
Apple Parsnip Cupcakes with Cider Icing
Bramley Apple Crumble
Kale and Apple Cake with Apple Icing
Nutmeg Plantain Cake with Coconut Caramel Popcorn
Vegan Blackberry Buckle
Quick Raspberry Compote Recipe
Cinnamon Apple Cake
Salted Caramel Apple Cupcakes
I hope that this selection will encourage you to gather friends together and throw a food and cider pairing party. Even better - make it a potluck and have everyone bring a different dish and different ciders, using my recipe ideas as a basic guideline. You could sit down at a table together, mingle in the house or get a big blanket and make a picnic out of it.
It's interesting to see how people taste things differently and prefer some matches over others. Just let your hair down and do some food tasting without any stuffiness. There are no wrongs and no rights - it's all about what flavours you like together.
Will you be having a food and cider pairing party?
Disclosure: Thatchers commissioned me to share my thoughts on cider and food pairing. All opinions are my own. Images, except for cider bottles, courtesy of Shutterstock/apple pie/quiche/apples/pork/noodle salad/cider shot glasses/curry/cheese/table. Food images with product courtesy of Thatchers.